Friday, August 10, 2018

Ammanji and his mysterious box

(Written in 2009,most of my readers would not have read this story)
I was a young boy then studying in school. I came home daily for my lunch as the school was very close by. One afternoon when I came home, I saw my mother in tears. She asked me to accompany her to my grandfather’s house a few miles away. When I asked her why she was crying, she said “You know ammanji (maternal uncle’s son) at my father’s place. He died last night and the cremation will take place in a few hours. I am going there now and you must accompany me.” 
I said “Yes, I don’t know much of him except that he munched raw arecanut often and had stacked in his almirah carpenter’s kit, cobbler’s equipment besides an old wooden box. I shall come.” I was happy to play truant from school
I have seen him many times whenever I visited my grandpa’s place. A frail and short man with thick glasses, he wore a button less white upper garment that was neither a vest nor a shirt. He was no real cousin of my grandpa, presumably a distant relative. He had lost his wife several years ago and had no children. He had none to look after him in his old days. My grandpa who was well off with a sprawling big house with many servants persuaded his relative to stay with him. He was treated like any other family member with dignity and lot of respect. None knew how he was related to grandpa and yet everyone called him ammanji. He had worked as a teacher in a local school and was known for his high proficiency in English language. A voracious reader of English fiction with books usually from a local library, he was generally very reticent and yet when he spoke he made everyone laugh with his witticisms. An addict to arecanuts, I suspected he had not much income, except for his few daily needs. I must confide in you that I was never drawn to him and even feared him possibly his features reminding me of a bull dog. In fairness, I must admit he smiled at me whenever I was face to face with him. He used to give me round mint peppermints in white colour that tasted sweeter if you drank water after you had consumed them.
I remembered very well that he had a small almirah on the wall for his use. There was an old small wooden box in his almirah that he rarely took out in the presence of others. But we, the young boys who lived in that house, knew he opened it daily twice, once in the morning and again in the evening peering into it for a few minutes. Whenever I was in my grandpa’s place, it used to be a pastime for me to try to discover what he was shielding from the prying eyes of others. Try as we did, we never succeeded. It was always kept locked with the key tied to his thread across his shoulder and body. We boys used to surmise that it contained some valuable stuff like gold jewellery of his wife or currency. One roguish boy in his adolescence felt it could contain love letters. I mentioned about this strange habit of ammanji once to my uncle hoping that he would help us in resolving the mystery. Instead he rebuked me for my inquisitiveness in other’s personal matters and sternly asked me to cultivate good behaviour.
Memories flashed through my mind of the arecanut, the mint peppermints and the mysterious wooden box as I went along with my mother to grandpa’s house. Everyone at grandpa’s house was sad as if their close relative had passed away. My grandpa, whom I have always known as a strong personality, was in uncontrollable tears. Many elders and ammanji’s former students had assembled and were heard praising him for his pedagogic skill and his other virtuous qualities.
It was after about ten days when I had accompanied my mom again for some concluding day function, the topic of his mysterious box came up for discussion. My grandpa had the box brought by one of my uncles and he opened it with the key he had retrieved from his relative’s body. Everyone including uncles, aunts, my mom, cousins rushed to grand pa’s side to have a look at its contents. To their great disappointment, it was empty except for a few coins, a book of Bhagwat Gita and an old post card size black and white faded photo that had gone pale and brown by passage of time. My grandpa rubbed his eyes that had gone misty when he saw it and mumbled,” Ammanji and his wife.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Promise kept

“Will you marry me, Renu” asked Kamesh
“What will you give me, if I say yes?” giggled Renu
“I will give you even my life for your hand.”
“Let us make the day memorable. Can we row in a boat for some distance?”
“The sky is overcast but I don’t want to disappoint you. Let us make it quick, Renu”
Facing each other with their legs intertwined, the lovers rowed laughing and singing romantic songs.
Suddenly she screamed in fear when she saw a cobra crawling towards them.
Kamesh turned to see the reptile and shouted, “Jump immediately with lifebelt and swim to shore.”
“What about you? There is only one lifebelt,” she asked as she jumped.
“Be quick. I will swim and join you.”
She paddled with her hands to reach the shore just when it started raining and turned dark.
Narrowing her eyes, she was peering into the lake even after an hour for any sign of Kamesh.
It struck her suddenly his telling her long back about his wish to learn swimming.(175)

FFFAW Challenge-177th'
This post is written for the 177th picture prompt in Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. The challenge is to write a piece of fiction within 100-175 words based on a photo prompt. Thanks to Priceless Joy for hosting this challenge.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

I love you dear grandpa

For no specific reason,fond memories of my grandpa came rushing into my mind today.As a mark of respect, I post a very old story about him that many of my readers would not have read.
I was then a young boy of eleven years. My maternal grandpa lived in another part of the town with my uncle. He was an old man in seventies. He was a widower having lost his wife at a young age and led a life of strict discipline and austerity. He wore only Khadi made out of the yarn spun by him in the charka (wheel). He rose early, finished his ablutions and the prayer by 6am to be before the wheel spinning yarn for two hours. He was a disciplinarian, spoke only when necessary and was given to reading habits. He was spotlessly clean except for the snuff that fell on his dress when he inhaled it frequently. This was one ‘bad and nasty habit’ he admitted he could not get rid of. He ate less but was a gourmet relishing good food.
Whenever I had holidays after each term, he took me away from my house forcibly to his place. It was a big house and he had rented several small portions to many poor families. There were many young boys and girls of my age to play with. While I looked forward to the fun with them, what I detested was his strict regimen of study for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.
He would teach me in the mornings daily along with a few other boys living in the house algebra and geometry for an hour and English grammar from Wren and Martin for another hour. Learning Mathematics was fun but grammar I found a bore. His temper was short and he had a ferrule at hand and believed strongly in the dictum of sparing the rod and spoiling the child. I remember clearly that he used it only on me and not on other boys. My uncle often came in support of me when I got beating, only to be chided away by my grandpa. My tears never moved my grandpa though I should confess he never beat me hard. It was his angry eyes and inhaling the snuff before taking the ferrule in his hand that scared me. He gave daily enough home work to be completed and shown in the afternoon session. Besides this he chose one story poem daily and asked us to write it in prose form.
It was this story poem that I felt the hardest for it was difficult for me to comprehend and to write in prose form. I made many grammatical mistakes. One boy who was with me always got his praise for paraphrasing the poem in impeccable and flawless English though he fared poorly in all other subjects. My grandpa’s anger grew more when he read mine after reading his and it invariably ended with the ferrule coming into operation. This went on for quite some days till I accidentally stumbled on a book on the boy’s table. It was a key to the story poems with answers neatly provided. That boy simply copied from it and presented it to my grandpa winning his appreciation.
So the next day when he started praising him and hitting me, I spilled the truth. That incident witnessed the boy being dismissed permanently from his classes. He told me” Yes I was wrong in praising him and should have suspected it. But that does not in any way condone your poor work”
I remonstrated ’Thatha, you are always partial. You always beat me. Never once you have hit any of them. You revel in spoiling my holidays bringing me here always. I hate you. I don’t want your tuitions. I don’t want to be here with you. Please allow me to go home.”
He sent away the boys and hugged me tight.” Partha, you are my favourite grandson. They are nobody to me. I want you to be bright and do well in studies. Do not mistake me. You have opened my eyes. I will throw the ferrule away now and promise not to touch you. Please do not go away. I am sorry” he pleaded.
I felt bad when I saw a tear trickle from his eye. I fell at his feet and said “Thatha, please forgive me. I know you are doing for my benefit. Please do not tell my mom.”
He said “It is okay. I will not tell anyone. You can go home today and come after three days if you wish to. We can then finish the few chapters of Wren and Martin and a few theorems before the school reopens.” When I said that I didn’t wish to go, he still sent me back.
Two days later when I was playing cricket in the garden behind my house, my sister came running to tell me “Partha, thatha died an hour back due to heart attack. Amma is going. You also join her.”
A hammer blow it was. There was a big crowd as my grandpa’s body lay in the hall there. I could not suppress my cry and wailed inconsolably. I felt an arm on my shoulder and turned to see who it was. It was my uncle with eyes red and swollen in tears. He whispered in my ears “What happened Partha.He was depressed ever since you left that day and mentioned to me something about having been harsh to you. What was that?”
I remembered my insensitive words about my hating him and his pleading with me not to go away. He was not demonstrative and had never said even once that he liked me. But that was his way of keeping his feelings inside his heart. I felt that I was instrumental in hastening his end by my thoughtless and childish remark. I broke out weeping loudly to the surprise of the many people gathered, “Thatha, forgive me, I never meant what I said that day. You were a pillar of strength and knowledge to me. I was an idiot in not realizing your unstated immense affection for me.”
I was gently taken away from the place by my uncle.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Hana's regret

Hana stood transfixed outside the large footwear section in Soras, a departmental store. What an array of glittering shoes and sandals, she wondered. Surveying all, she fell in love with one high heeled shoe in red leather with strap. 
Dragging her date Reo with her she went in and took the red shoes in hand. Brushing away a sales boy, a young man, possibly the owner from the deferential attitude of the boy, approached her with a smile and said, “Good choice, an exquisite pair from finest leather,”
As he knelt down to try them on her legs, he saw a long scar and looked up. “Are you Hana from Aichi konan college by any chance?” he exclaimed.
Surprised she looked intently at him and said,” Yes, is it Haruto. I cannot forget the mole on your chin. Do you own this store?”
As he nodded his head, she became morose ruing her mistake in rejecting his proposal as he was too poor then for her dream.
Reo instantaneously fell out of her favour.  (174)

FFFAW Challenge-176th
This post is written for the 176th picture prompt in Friday Fiction for Aspiring Writers. The challenge is to write a piece of fiction within 100-175 words based on a photo prompt. Thanks to Priceless Joy for hosting this challenge.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Vengeful betrayal

It was hot and sultry outside. Sarala switched on the AC and sank in the plush sofa with the newspaper in hand. It was then the doorbell chimed to annoy her as she rushed to open the door.
“Wow, Vinitaa,” screamed Sarala and added,” Welcome, how sweet of you to have traced me after ages? True, we talked on phone a couple of times but could meet only now.” Sarala gushed with warmth even as they hugged each other.
 “What a pleasant surprise! You haven’t changed much in these ten years though quite plump. You must be very happy with your life,” exclaimed Sarala with a chuckle.
“Don’t imagine you have a perfect figure, Saral. I can see clearly the folds in your stomach,” Vinita replied with a mock disdain.  ” First, let me make myself comfortable in the sofa. I have so much to talk to you. Get me something cold to slake my thirst,” said Vinita.
Sarala could not miss the smug smile on Vinita’s face as she sipped Pepsi with her hand on Sarala’s shoulder. The cool air and the cooler Pepsi raised her spirits further. This was the first time they had met after they left the college and parted ways. They were roommates who had no secret between them. Sarala could see a curious sense of accomplishment in her face and her eagerness to share the news.
“Vinita, you seem somewhat different from your usual self. It looks as if you are bursting to tell me something. What is happening?”
“Did you say I seem happy with my life? The truth is I am happy only today but not with my life,” replied Vinita with a mischievous grin and added,” True, I have come to confide in you something serious, Saral, as I always did. I know you keep secrets safe. It will also calm my agitated mind to a great extent.”
“Oh! Take your time. Want some more Pepsi or fruit juice?” asked Sarala.” 
“Yes, some Pepsi. Hold your breath. I betrayed my husband this morning knowingly and was happy to do it. A vile creature, I hate him from the bottom of my heart and took my revenge in a sweet way.”
Sarala was shocked and was rendered speechless for a few seconds. “What are you blabbering, Vinita? Are you really in your senses?”
“Yes, very much in sound mind. I wreaked my vengeance for what he has been doing to me all these years. An incurable alcoholic, he has been of no use to me and was treating me like a door mat and trampling on all my wishes and dreams. Though he was doing well as a lawyer when I married him, he gradually became a sidekick to an important political leader and has since been doing all nefarious and illegal activities. I was against it since beginning and asking him to commence his practice safe in some other state. Instead he has been torturing me for years to be an accomplice in his various activities and I have been putting up with the nonsense not knowing what to do. The last straw was when he slapped me last week in the presence of everyone at a family function. He was out to prove to those wretched people of his that he had me under his thumbs” replied Vinita.
” Serves him right, though I do not agree even a bit with what you did. How come you got this crazy idea? Has a devil taken control of your mind? Who was the guy anyway?” asked Sarala.
Vinita refused to answer saying she was bound by a promise she made to him. All the efforts of Sarala proved of little avail. She would not tell except that she knew him in a birthday party at her friend’s house. I met him subsequently once or twice at his office as I felt he could be the ideal guy for my plan.
“How does he look?” asked Sarala with some inquisitiveness.
“I don’t really understand why you are curious. Anyway, he is a tall, well-built hunk and ruggedly handsome.” she replied.
“My god, what name? Any prominent distinguishing mark? Do remember you never withhold any information.”
“You do not anyway need these. Sorry, I cannot divulge his name or any more details except that he had a big dark mole on his chin.”
“Can you at least tell me where this meeting took place?” asked Sarala
“Both of us wanted it to be very confidential for obvious reasons and met at a resort in Nilankarai.Why do you want to know all these details, Saral? I cannot tell his name but his surname is Dixit,” replied Vinita with a grin.
Vinita could see that Sarala became suddenly morose and her face turned pale for some reason that Vinita could not decipher.
Sarala ran inside her bedroom and came out with a mounted photograph of herself and her husband. “See this carefully and tell me whether this is the guy you met?”
It was a thousand volts shock that left Vinita speechless. Recovering slowly, she said, “Yes, it is him whom I met. I never knew he is your husband, not that it matters much. It can even be useful in some ways,”
Sarala remembered that her husband Mohan Dixit left early in the morning telling her that he had an urgent official meeting at Nilankarai. Has he stooped to such low levels, she wondered?
She suddenly screamed at Vinita,” You bitch, get away from my sight for ever. You had the cheek to snatch my husband for your nefarious deed and also dare to come and tell me. Fie upon you, you will go to hell”. She fell down on the sofa covering her face with both hands and started wailing inconsolably.
“Sarala, you have understood me completely wrong. What I betrayed is not what you think, it is the betrayal of the trust my vile husband had in me. I gave Mr. Dixit of revenue service, whom I did not know till now as your husband, all the information about my husband. I furnished him all the details I was in possession of my husband’s ill gotten money and properties, where they are hidden and who the benamies are. The information was divulged in strict secrecy. He is a perfect gentleman, fully aware that my life would be in danger has promised to safeguard my identity. I hope my man would go to jail and I will be free to move away from him and lead my life. I could not keep to myself such a momentous step I took and rushed to you to share. I can understand why you got upset,” softly and clearly explained.
Sarala stood dazed at the way things had unfolded and was struck by remorse at her hasty and rude reaction. She went down on her knees and holding Vinita’s hands genuinely pleaded for her pardon.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A scary hideout

Panting for breath, she ran helter-skelter with a stalker in hot pursuit. Wishing to hide quickly, she entered into one of cluster of dilapidated houses through a broken door. There was a stench from the dust and cobwebs inside. Avoiding the   rickety wooden staircase, she hid in a dark room at the rear. Her heart froze in fear when she heard faint movements upstairs followed by a glass breaking and  stick falling.
Soon the heavy stalker charged in shouting, “You slut, you are trapped,” and ran up the stairs. Alas, one of the wooden planks of the wobbly staircase gave way and the man fell down with a thud. Hit by an edge of a box, he lay inert. She saw in shock the crimson pool around his head. Her heart skipped a beat when a black cat jumped near her leg. She quickly ran out.
“Don’t you know it is haunted and none enters?” queried an old man outside. Crossing her chest with her hands, she breathed free and walked gratefully.(172)

This post is written for the 174th picture prompt in Friday Fiction for Aspiring Writers. The challenge is to write a piece of fiction within 100-175 words based on a photo prompt. Thanks to Priceless Joy for hosting this challenge.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The uninvited intruder

“Lochi, make sure you have taken the inhaler just in case you need it,” Lalita shouted to her eight year old daughter from the living room. As an afterthought she added, “Take an extra dress too for any emergency.”
 “I have it, Ma, including the dress in my bag. I am done with the packing.”
“Have you taken tooth brush, paste, comb and such things,” asked a concerned Lalita.
“Ma, I am not going on a long trip. Just one night for a sleepover with my friends. Please do not fret yourself,”
“I know, but this is the first time you are going to spend a night away from me. Get ready. Your friend will be here presently to pick you. It is nearing 8.30pm”
“Ma, can you manage alone? If you wish, I would rather not go.”
“No, I am absolutely fine. Go and enjoy,” said Lalita in a comforting tone.
There were loud beeps from car horn. Lochi and Lalita hurried to the gate. Lochi hugged her mom before boarding the car. Lalita continued to stand at the gate and watched the fading red lights till the car turned at the end of the road.
She slowly walked back to her house. As she turned the key to the door, she noticed a small piece of self-adhesive paper stuck on the door. Wondering who could have done it, she pulled the paper and read a small note scribbled on it.
I know your daughter is away for the night and you are alone. I would be there with you the whole night and give you company. Fear not, I will be kind to you. I will always be behind you.  Do not bother about opening the door. I can find my way in.
Lalita quickly turned round and saw no one. The road was empty and it started drizzling A stray dog barked somewhere in the dark night. She quickly went in and shut the door tight. Shaken with fear and wondering how one could enter the locked house with grilled windows, she switched on the lights in all rooms and searched to see no one was there. She heard a dog bark incessantly not far from the house. With heart pounding as if it would burst, she darted to her room and closed it making sure the door is properly bolted. She moved towards the window and peeped outside only to find no one except that the drizzle has become a steady rain. To make things worse, there were incessant lightening followed by ear splitting thunders. Clutching at her heart, she started reciting her favourite god’s name. She pulled a table with a chair on it and kept it across the door. Wondering how the guy knew that she would be alone, she shuddered at the thought of what could happen to her if he were to come in. She kept awake for long till she dozed off to sleep.
With a startle she woke up when she heard the long bell. The day was bright already. She rushed to the door and called out. “Who is it?”.
“Amma, Lochi here. How long am I to ring the bell?” she said as she came in. On seeing mom, she asked, “What happened to you? You look terrified. I suspected this would happen and that is why I left a note assuring you that God is behind you. Did you not read the note?”
“My god, are you the one that stuck the note on the door? You should have told me, silly girl. I spent the whole night in total fear”
“Did you not see behind the note? Lochi asked innocently.
Lalita turned the crumpled note to see, “Your God “. She read  the contents again and mumbled to herself that everything now fell into their place.